|Updated: 3/13/2013 10:16 am
||Published: 12/13/2012 6:29 pm
A new weapon in the "war on meth" is coming soon to pharmacies. It's "meth-proof" pseudoephedrine.
Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant used to treat cold and allergy-related symptoms, but it's also the main ingredient in meth.
Experts say it looks and works the exact same as pseudoephedrine products already available, but Nexafed and Zephrex-D have chemicals that make the pseudoephedrine practically impossible to turn into meth.
They also say these new forms could finally be the solution to Oklahoma's meth epidemic.
David Starkey dedicates his life to stopping the meth problem, and says meth-proof pseudoephedrine is a "game-changer."
"[I'm] excited that it's fully passed DEA testing and you can get no yield of meth from either of these pseudoephedrine products," Starkey said.
Pharmacist Chris Schiller says lately he's had to focus on enforcing strict pseudoephedrine laws instead of helping patients.
"We can actually put it back over the counter where we don't have to take an ID from a patient, treat every patient like a criminal that's coming in just because they have a cold or some congestion," Schiller said.
Meth-proof pseudo turns into a thick gel-like goop rather than a crystal-like powder when it's broken down with the solvents used to make meth. That makes it nearly impossible to extract the pure pseudoephedrine.
Schiller said people using pseudoephedrine for the right reasons likely won't be able to tell a difference between the regular and the meth-proof versions.
"The technology they used in this particular drug they're using in other medications, and as of right now, they work just the same and have the same effect," Schiller said.
He's hoping meth-proof will be the new norm.
"What I'm thinking might happen is pharmacies will choose to carry just those ones, or legislation will pass to where they can only sell that kind."
But Starkey worries the drug companies that make regular pseudoephedrine will do all they can to make sure that doesn't happen.
"Eighty-five percent of all pseudoephedrine that's sold is going into the meth cook market," he said.
That means they make most of their money off people making meth, and Starkey is concerned pharmaceutical companies won't want to burn up their profit.
So, he says it's up to law-abiding citizens to make sure meth-proof pseudoephedrine becomes the only kind of pseudoephedrine.
"Since this is so new, most of your pharmacies don't know about it," Starkey said. "Start asking for meth-proof pseudoephedrine."
Nexafed will be available in Oklahoma pharmacies within the next several months. Zephrex-D is already available in Missouri, and will be coming to Oklahoma pharmacies as well in the near future.
In 2004, Oklahoma became the first state in the nation to put pseudoephedrine behind the counter, limit the amount people could buy and require ID for purchase.
That then became federal law soon after.
Oklahoma also has a drug tracking system as well.